The last week has been very busy indeed, my first week of delivery proper saw me work with over 260 pupils at my first partner school and so far has given me a valuable first insight into the practicalities of delivering outdoor workshops using the dome. Firstly my planned delivery during the sessions has been tweaked as I’ve gone along. Largely this is due to not being able to have as many people in the dome all at the same time. I’ve had to break this down to smaller numbers of participants, although this is only a consideration for those groups who are old enough to take part in coating their own paper with the chemicals. The younger groups are simply using the dome as a place that they can expose their prints to the sunlight with most of the activity taking place outside and under the separate tarp covered “classroom” I have set up. However a small bout of wet weather during this week did present a challenge as the tarp wasn’t really keeping much of the rain out! Luckily (for this part of the project at least) there is always the luxury of being able to retire to the bricks and mortar classroom whilst the prints are being exposed in the dome.
Despite the challenges of the weather, so far all of the groups seem to be enjoying the sessions and most importantly are enjoying the process of making their prints and there have been a lot of happy faces when the prints are washed and the results start to appear. I spoke to one teaching assistant who felt the project is “good for those children that don’t necessarily feel that they are good at art. The one’s that can’t draw for example. With this method of making they will get a result no matter what.” Obviously this doesn’t mean that they will still think that their end results are good but I’ve made a point of talking about the cyanotype process as a process of experimentation and trying things out, also making sure to highlight the merits of images that are abstract in nature as well as those with very clearly defined representations of the objects used to make the image.
I also took time this week to experiment with my own approach to image making using the cyanotype method. Firstly on one of my solo days in the dome at the school. I began experimenting with fabrics and the effects of the chemical when painted onto the surface. I had an unexpected result with the fabric as the chemical ran past the embroidery hoops I was using to create a circular shape, I’d not even considered that the fabric would soak up excess liquid! It did however create a rather pleasing effect but I would still like to investigate ways to stop this bleed.
I had a chance to discuss this and fabric options at the weekend when I began work with one of the projects associate artists Julia Claridge. Julia is a dressmaker who I’ve worked with on commissioned projects regularly over the last few years, she is, as you would expect, a font of knowledge when it comes to fabrics. We spoke about types of fabrics that could work well with the process, properties of different material and also some ways we might be able to stop the chemical from bleeding into areas it’s not wanted. I also walked Julia through the process of mixing the chemicals and we spent a couple of hours making some prints. She’s now going to order in a range of different fabric samples for us to test and play with in a few weeks time. This has been an exciting development in the approach to my own practice as I can already see the cogs whirring in Julia’s head, she’s already given me a few things to mull over regarding the look of my finished pieces…and with her excellent machine skills I’m sure she’ll be able to help me tidy up the edges of my fabric pieces (cutting material in straight lines is clearly not a strong suit of mine!)